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Gadpaille, a Colorado psychoanalyst, attempts the near-hopeless: a comprehensive layman's guide to stages of psychosexual development, from prenatal existence to death. Miraculously, the book imposes a reasonably intelligible order on a massive, contusing body of data. It is written with general good sense and good humor. It will probably be a useful reference tool--that is, for readers who can supply a certain distancing skepticism. He uses a modified Freudian structure that achieves conceptual unity at the expense of flexibility. Gadpaille begins with the infant's first struggle to perceive the bewildering distinction between the self and not-self and goes on to the repeated collisions between conscious control and biological drive (described in terms of the various hormonal growth and maturation sequences) which mark the childhood and adult stages of conflict resolution--or, for the less fortunate, conflict suppression. Tiffs sound framework is unfortunately compromised by updated versions of some suspect Freudian tenets about the supposed norms of female sexual development. Gadpaille holds onto the concept of penis envy (albeit with apologies, deprecations, and allowances for exceptions) and sees the acceptance of vaginal (as opposed to clitoral) genitality as a critical stage of even a pre-schooler's sexual self-definition: an emptiness to be filled. One is not surprised to read later on that women whose priorities are career-oriented come from Unsatisfactory family backgrounds, or that advocates of day care possess ""stunted and undeveloped"" maternal instincts. Are these minor blemishes on a generally sane treatment, or indications of a fundamentally reactionary approach? Gadpaille makes many valuable points--as when he insists that masturbation must be accepted as not only a normal but an enriching part of childhood (and later) sexuality, or that the medical profession recognize the sexual needs of the middle-aged and elderly. But he tends to write off difficult questions in surprisingly bland generalities, like announcing that ""benevolent firmness"" is the best way to preserve parental sexual privacy or that a father's ""decision making"" is the quality most intimately related to his toddler son's developing sense of masculine identity. Despite weak moments, an often impressive realization of an ambitious task.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners